Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has reacted to the passing of Poet Laureate Keorapetse Kgosietsile by describing him as one of the most influential and exceptional poets South Africa has ever produced.

Mthethwa made the comments in a post on twitter. In other reactions, the African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg has described Kgosietsile as a giant of the struggle.

The ruling ANC hailed the contributions of the internationally renowned writer, activist and revolutionary.

In a statement, the ANC said the tributes pouring in from around the world for the national Poet Laureate, fondly known as Bra Willie, are an indication of the breadth of his influence on young and old alike – and the impact of his work.

“Comrade Kgositsile has left an indelible mark on the cultural and artistic life of not only the land of his birth, but also of Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Harlem, New York,” the party said.

The ANC said Kgositsile was an ANC stalwart who dedicated his life to the liberation of South Africa, and that he was a founding member of the ANC’s Department of Education in 1977 and Department of Arts and Culture in 1983.

“A prolific and celebrated writer and poet, he was bestowed with the Order of Ikhamanga in 2008. During his time in the United States he wrote extensively on the influence of jazz music on African-American culture and on the unity of the African diaspora. He was a passionate pan-Africanist whose work was infused with his commitment to the ideal of a free, prosperous and united African continent. The tapestry of South African cultural life is all the poorer at his loss and the ANC joins all South Africans in mourning the passing of this great man.”

The ANC called on government to forge ahead with its quest to make more African literature available in the country’s schools in order to expose new generations of South Africans to the works of Bra Willie and many others.

The ANC extended its condolences to the Kgositsile family and wished them strength during this difficult time.

“Hamba Kahle Bra Willie; legend, patriot, revolutionary.”

President Jacob Zuma has also paid tribute to Kgositsile. In a statement, the Presidency said Zuma had “learned with sadness of the passing of renowned and highly respected author and poet and a giant of the struggle for liberation”.

The Presidency noted that Kgositsile was South Africa’s first National Poet Laureate and a recipient of the National Order of Ikhamanga for his contribution to the field of literature.

“Today our country mourns the sad passing of one of the giants of our liberation struggle who was renowned for his accomplishment as well in the education, arts and culture sectors. He was highly regarded even beyond the borders of our country and was a celebrated arts intellectual in the continent. We extend our deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace,” said President Zuma.

Kgosietsile was admitted to hospital shortly before the New Year and passed away around midday on Wednesday.

“His untimely death happened today (Wednesday) at 11h50 and he passed away after a short illness. He had complications, blood circulation and had an operation today (Wednesday) and passed away. He had been in hospital from just a bit before the New Year,” says family friend, Mandla Langa.

Kgosietsile is the former husband of Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete with whom he had three children. As an influential ANC cadre in the 1960’s, he went into exile in the United States where he made an extensive study of African-American literature and culture.

Speaking to the SABC, his lifelong friend Professor Muxe Nkondo who worked with him for over 40 years said Professor Kgositsile will be remembered for his courage to speak his mind. Additional reporting by ANA.

Click below for more on the story: